The "P" Word

Hi, everyone! I'm hanging out over at Frankie Diane Mallis' blog today, giving advice about something I have no right to give advice about.


I hope you check it out!

And here's my favorite video on the subject:

That is so (painfully) me.

Thank you, everyone, for the New York City recommendations in my last post. Please, please, please keep leaving suggestions in the comments!


Five Things I Love: March Edition

(1) French lessons from feisty macarons at Cakespy

Emailed to me from Eliza. Merci beaucoup!

(2) Spaced

The SINGULAR TELEVISION-RELATED THING I'm rewarding my good writing behavior with. I so so sososobadly want to be besties with Simon Pegg.

(3) Under Great White Northern Lights

The White Stripes' documentary and live album. I've been going through a secret (not-so-secret now) Jack White phase ever since It Might Get Loud. Which is another excellent documentary for music people! Just so you know.

(4) Little Brown Pen

A goooooooorgeous Parisian blog. Thank you, Shelf Elf, for sending me the link! I honest-to-goodness cried when I looked at it. I *still* miss Paris.

Luckily, travel is on the horizon . . .

(5) New York, New York

Next week, I'm leaving for six days in NYC. I'm visiting my publishing house and in-person meeting my incredible editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, for the first time.

(Can I say that again?)


(Forgive me. One rarely gets to say things like that in life.)

I'm excited to say hello to everyone at Dutton and to thank them for treating Anna and the French Kiss with such kindness and respect. It takes a LOT of people to get a book published! I am only one teeny tiny little peon in the process. I can't wait to meet the people who are ACTUALLY MAKING IT HAPPEN.

So. I have a question for you, dearest readers.

The trip is longer than I'd originally intended, because I'm staying a few extra days to see Thom Yorke's temporary band, Atoms for Peace.

(Can I say that again?)


(For new readers, Thom is both my grouchiest Celebrity Boyfriend and my longest term Celebrity Boyfriend. We go way back. Like, I loved him before it was legal for him to love me back.)



ME: Hello, Love. Let's get married.

THOM: You're already married. And I'm in a long-term relationship with the mother of my children. She's a Dante scholar. She's brilliant.

ME: But I looooooove you.

THOM: Bugger off.

ME: I still looooooove you.

THOM: Fine. I love you, too.

ME: *kisses telephone*

THOM: Stop calling me at work. *click*

I've been to the city and done the touristy things before. (Well. Not all of them, because some touristy things are boring.) So I'm looking for WEIRD STUFF to do. And YUMMY STUFF to eat! My only other extracurricular plans so far are:

Tim Burton exhibition at MoMA
— Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity

Unless their hot chocolate is overrated. Is it? Have you tried it? I'll be staying with friends in Brooklyn and popping in and out of Manhattan. Anything you recommend to me in my comments — in either city — is very, very welcome! Thank you!

Also . . . what are you loving this March?


Happy Glen & Markéta Day!

I like St. Patrick's Day. Not quite as much as the gentleman pictured above, but a great deal. I'm still in The Hole (notice progression to capitalization), but I wrote a long, lovely post on the holiday last year, and since many of you are newish readers, I wanted to direct your attention there.

It has cute Irish guys, if that helps.

Because of The Hole situation — writing 12-14 hours a day, every day — I've left my house a whopping *FIVE* times in the last month. And that includes a trip to the compost pile ten feet from my back door. It also includes last night's trip to Malaprop's, my local indie bookstore, to see one of my favorite authors (also local!), Sarah Addison Allen. Her latest, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, was just released and it sounds WONDERFUL.

A giant! Color-changing wallpaper! Mysterious lights! A family who won't (or can't) leave the house at night!

Sarah was funny and warm and kind, and she handed out Moon Pies. If you aren't familiar with her work, she writes magic realism that's romantic, fairy tale-esque, and deeply North Carolinian. Her first, Garden Spells, was a New York Times bestseller, and I enjoyed her second novel, The Sugar Queen, even more.

I have not been this excited about a novel's release in a long time.

Anyway, I'm allowing myself one more break from my hole tonight to watch the Irish film Once. In last year's St. Patrick's Day post, I mentioned I wanted watch it again it to celebrate. I did, and it turned out to be such a perfect way to cap off the holiday, that I decided to make it a tradition.

(Most of my traditions involve watching a particular movie. Or two. Or three.)

If you're unfamiliar with Once, then again, I hope you read last year's post!

Tonight, I am coming for you, Glen.

In SUPER AWESOME RELATED NEWS, Jarrod picked up tickets to see Glen and Markéta's band, The Swell Season, when they come here to Asheville this May. I'm so excited! Their music is beautiful and gorgeously painful, and I've used it an unbelievable number of times for inspiration while writing. It will be incredible to hear them in person.

(That just gave me a shiver.)

And in SUPER AWESOME UNRELATED NEWS, another North Carolinian author, Beth Revis, just signed a three-book deal with Razorbill. Beth has always been so supportive and active in the YA writing/blogging community, and it's thrilling to see this happen for her. Congratulations, Beth!

Okay. Back to The Hole.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!


Cheat Cheat Cheat Cheat Cheat

A quick, cheater post from my hole, in which I will send you elsewhere.

A few weeks ago, I guest posted on my agent's blog here. If you haven't read it, basically I tell you to stop being a wuss. But in a nice way.

And Katie Anderson from Plot This just posted an interview with me here, in which I discuss my trip to Paris and my research process for Anna and the French Kiss. She asked GREAT questions, and I had so much fun answering them!

One last note: If you're waiting for a reply to an email or message, a guest post, an interview, a manuscript critique, or anything else I may have promised, I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU! Please forgive me. I need more time. Did I mention I love you? Thank you.

Oh, what the heck.

Here are some cute boys holding flowers:

You're welcome.

[I had that Benny & Joon poster on my bedroom wall growing up! I've loved Johnny Depp for a long, long time. Once I dreamed he gave me a bag of plastic sunglasses. But that's not really important. Stop talking, Stephanie, and get back to work. Fine. I'll go. Be that way.]

[Though I will say, if you'd like to leave links to pictures of cute boys holding flowers in my comments, I would be TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.]


Elizabeth Gilbert Saves My Soul (or something slightly less dramatic but no less important)

This is why I love the internet.

Stella heard my cry of help and left the *PERFECT* link in my comments.

I'm sharing it with you, because pretty much everyone expressed concern about the Second Novel Curse. (See? NO ONE can escape!!) It's a talk from Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm not sure how you feel about her — I adore her, but I know many resent her for having the time and money to do what she did, when most of us cannot (I understand this reaction, too) — but I think/hope those of you struggling with the creative process will find something of value in this video.

[In case you're unfamiliar with Elizabeth Gilbert, she wrote Eat Pray Love, a mega-huge bestseller about going through an ugly divorce and finding peace with herself again in Italy (eating), India (praying), and Bali (falling in love). I loved it, and I've read it a few times.]

I cried through at least half of her lecture. It was exactly what I needed to hear. A life-changing, light bulb moment. Thank you, Stella, for looking out for me. I wish I could bake you cookies or give you a bear hug or wash your laundry for a year.

If you're reading this on an RSS reader, you might have to come to my actual blog to watch this. If you still can't see it, you can watch it here.

I hope any writer struggling (and suffering) right now will watch it this week. And I hope you'll find comfort in it, like I did.

More comments stuff . . .

Amber asked: Oh, and I wanted to say that I have a new actor crush. The hottest guy out there on TV? The one who makes ME swoon (which has never happened before)? Rupert Penry-Jones. *swoon* *fans self* Did you see him in The 39 Steps? OMG.

Rupert? Who is this Rupert you speak of? Surely you mean . . .


You MUST watch Persuasion (2007). And I'll watch The 39 Steps. And then we'll come back here, and we'll be like: "OMGGGGG RUUUUPEEERRRT SOOOO DREAAAMMY!!!"

Jessie asked: Is Anna your very FIRST book written ever? Or do you have another (or others) 'under the bed'?

Yes and no. Anna is the first book I finished, and the first book I showed to people and tried to sell. But Lola is technically my first book! Which adds a lovely complication to our history. Lola and I are about to have our TEN YEAR anniversary this autumn. Pretty frightening.

I never made it far with her, and she used to be veryveryvery different (adult, for one thing). I set her aside when, well, I had to. But shortly after, I had my wondrous Anna dream! I launched into writing her story one week later.

(An excellent career move, if I say so myself.)

I credit that old, ugly, never-ending, never-finished version of Lola with teaching me how to write. Old Lola prepared me for Anna. And everything about new Lola has changed, with the exception of the setting and the characters. They wouldn't leave me alone! It was an exciting moment while working on Anna when I realized the books had a connection. I was THRILLED to know these characters I loved were still salvageable, that I could still tell their story!

Even if their story had changed. Drastically.

In other words, there's nothing under my bed except for dog fur and a large Rubbermaid container of shoes. Unless you count old Lola. Which you probably should.

Terresa asked: Your first book (and cover) sound divine. Have you sold the movie rights yet? I can see it in lights already...

Thank you!! And sadly, no. Wouldn't that be cool? I hope it happens someday!

I'm burrowing into a hole this week to work, so if you don't see me around much, that's why.


Thanks to Stella and Elizabeth, I feel the beautiful, wistful brush of hope again.


Gratitude + Lola + Rube Goldberg Machines


Eighty-something comments here! So many more on Facebook, Livejournal, and Twitter! And the EMAIL!! I am overwhelmed with love. Thank you for the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things you've said about my cover. For an author, especially a newbie nobody like myself, lemme tell ya:


Now that the excitement has died down (and thank you for making it exciting!), I'll move forward with my promise. I realized much, much later — like, ten minutes ago — that when I said I'd invent a new, fun announcement about my second novel with a BIG REVEAL, I'd actually shot myself in the foot. Because now you're expecting something.


Told you I wasn't thinking clearly.

So I don't really know how to do that, so instead I'll try my best to open up about Lola and the Boy Next Door. If you've been reading my blog for an extended period of time, you know Second Novel and I have a . . . rocky relationship. Pretty much every time I've mentioned it, I've used what can only be described as the Jerry Seinfeld "Newman" voice.


This book has kicked my butt, you guys.

I have spent a LOT of time over a course of several years fighting with it. And I have spent a LOT of time this year crying about it. I don't want to go into detail. I want to keep this happy! So I will simply explain it as this: Lola and I suffer from the Second Novel Curse.

If you're a writer who has written at least two books, you know what I'm talking about. And if you aren't . . . well . . . trust me. The second novel is always cursed. There are many, many boring reasons why this is so, and because they are boring — and heartbreaking — I'm stopping this paragraph now.*

Because I want to use this post to celebrate Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Lola is a GOOD, WEIRD, COOL book. The plot must remain a secret because: (A) I like to keep such things secret, and (B) It's still in the organic, muddy clay stage. The idea is there, but it'll take many more months of shaping and remolding before the true story emerges.

But here are some things I CAN tell you . . .

(1) It's a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss.

This means it's not a direct this-happens-next sequel. The novel is firmly Lola's — thus, Lola gets the title! — and it can be enjoyed on its own. But there's a bit of character overlap, so it'll be enjoyed MORE if Anna is read first.

(2) No, I don't know when it will be published.

From what I understand, it's on track to be released a year-ish after Anna. Which would be awesome! But many factors could change this. One scenario: I turn in Lola and my editor says, "Er, no. Let's do something else." This happens frequently with second novels! (Second Novel Curse, remember?) I hope this doesn't happen. BUT IT COULD. A novelist's motto should be that of a scout: Be prepared.

(3) No, it doesn't take place in Paris.

But if I'm fortunate enough to get a contract someday for Third Novel (currently in "fledgling adorable baby first draft" status), you will see Paris again. Fourth Novel (currently in "have-two-intriguing-scenes and an interesting concept" status) is NOT a companion, but would appeal to the same audience. So even if my fab publisher is like, "Okay, Stephanie. These first two books were nice, but I think we're done." (BE PREPARED, remember??) Fourth Novel should be able to flourish somewhere. There's also a Fifth and a Sixth Novel hovering around in various stages of undress, but they are TOTALLY COMPLETELY unrelated. So I'm not sure why I'm mentioning them, other than I think they'd feel bad if I didn't.

(4) Writers are crazy.

See above paragraph.

(5) Wait, wasn't I supposed to be talking about Lola?

I love characters — characters make or break a story for me — and I'm proud of the strange crew I've assembled on Lola's pages. One of the most enjoyable things for me as a writer is to take someone who is a little absurd and make them relatable. Lola is PACKED with these people. It's fun. It's also challenging. But mainly it's fun.

Lola also does ("will do," someday, after more drafts) something else I love. There are many great types of novels, but perhaps my favorite type are the contemporary romances that FEEL magical. Real magic. Those places and moments and people and emotions that are so wondrous or strange that they make you realize how incredible real life is.

Because it is, isn't it?

First kisses, wishing on stars, secret gardens, dark chocolate with hidden cayenne pepper, the cycles of the moon, a lucky pair of shoes, music, holding hands, watching someone paint, memories triggered by the scent of crayons . . .

There are many wondrous and strange things packed into Lola's pages. Perhaps even some of the things I've just mentioned!

But definitely these:

Putting those images together actually made me teary! For every bad thing I have ever said about Lola and the Boy Next Door — and ohmygosh, that number must be in the thousands — the simple truth is this: I love it.

So that's what I can tell you about Second Novel.

I'll leave you with one final thing. In Lola, there's a character very, very, very dear to my heart who would find much in common with OK Go's latest video. (I didn't think it was possible to top their treadmill video, and I am OUTRAGEOUSLY THRILLED they proved me wrong.) So in that character's honor, here it is:

Real life magic, eh?

*If you're interested, someday I'll talk about the Second Novel Curse. Why it exists and what writers can do about it. Now would be grossly inappropriate for me to address that issue, as I'm still ensnared in the thick of it.



I'd planned a big reveal (you know I'm fond of big reveals!), but my Amazon pre-order page had other plans. So I'll get on with it.

Yes! This is my cover:


As many of you are already aware, it popped up on Amazon last Friday. And I assure you, I was just as surprised as you were.

Last weekend, I received dozens of emails, Facebook messages, Goodreads messages, and tweets. THANK YOU. You guys are amazing. Several of you mentioned that as soon as you saw it on Amazon, you rushed here to my blog, looking for the announcement. You can't fathom how happy that made me!

(And sorry, because it wasn't here.)

The cover is final, though I'm not sure if it's final-final. Sometimes covers — like titles or release dates — change throughout the process. So we shall see. Everything is still a blur. I'd seen the mock-up of my cover last November, but I hadn't seen it since!

And then . . . there it was.

And here it is again. Because really. It has my name on it.

I like how clean and modern it is, and I'm happy the Eiffel Tower looks structural (as opposed to curlicue or floofy, like so many covers that feature the tower). And the hands! The hands are my favorite part. As I told my friend Myrna recently, they're quite appropriate. Most of the novel is about longing and being close to something . . . but still so far away.

Which reminds me of something else I've been meaning to talk about. A few people mentioned they were startled when they saw Anna's page count on Amazon. It's currently listed as 384 pages, and though that will change a little (it's still being edited), it's pretty darn close.

Yes. Anna and the French Kiss is a big book.

The reaction to this has made me realize that perhaps I've been TOO flippant about my novel, so I want to say this:

I am not under the delusion that I wrote something Important, Award-Winning, or Bestseller-y. (The day a contemporary romance written by a woman wins a major award, I will eat my hat. Or something edible, but really really gross. Like pickled eggs. Or haggis.) And I hope I'm NEVER under this delusion of self-importance! There are millions of books in the world. I wrote one.

And it's a GOOD book that I LOVE and I'm PROUD of.

But . . .

There's this mean, embarrassing part of my brain that has a difficult time accepting my novel as something worthy, BECAUSE it knows it's not Important, Award-Winning, or Bestseller-y. Which is so so SO dumb, because I spend a great deal of my time (especially here on my blog) talking about books and movies that fall under these Not Important categories, but that I love with all of my heart.

I hate that the people I scorn for making me feel bad about what I do, still make me feel bad about what I do.

Not all the time. But sometimes.

So yes, it's a book with funny bits and kissing. That's why I write. I like to make myself laugh, and I really like to make myself swoon! But I also like darkness, sadness, and anger. I like novels with complex problems, I like novels with identifiable themes, and I like novels with a definite sense of place. And I believe these things are perfectly compatible with romance and comedy.

So all of that — hopefully — is in my writing, too. And that makes for a higher page count.

(I just enjoy the kissing scenes the most.)

♥ The best my husband and I could do, taking the photo ourselves. ♥

Moving on . . .

I also have an official author photo!

Me, being official 'n' stuff.

It was taken by my friend Destinee Blau, and I couldn't be happier. She's so talented! There was a serious PRESSURE on this. I've spent so many years working with books, so I know exactly what booksellers and librarians say about author photos. Talk about karma. Sheesh! That'll teach me to keep my mouth in check.

Anyway, that will be the ME that will appear in your copy of Anna. Unless Dutton decides to go with this one, which I also wholeheartedly endorse.

Three last things:


Kiersten and I are "Frequently Bought Together!" And not only that, look who else you're buying — Laini!!

I have the best, best, BEST blog readers! THANK YOU! There are no two writers I'd rather share an Amazon page with. I love those ladies, and I love those books!

(2) To make up for not having a fun announcement post, I will invent a NEW fun announcement.

It'll be about my second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and I'll post it later this week. It won't be an excerpt, because I am not THAT crazy. But it will be DETAILS. And you know how I feel about SHARING DETAILS. So that's a pretty big deal for me.

(3) What do you think of my cover??

Because I'm dying to know.